Today is Reformation Day, and it has just reminded me of another “R” that I have found myself carrying around over the last ten years.
Yes, over the last ten years and two vehicles, I have been driving the roads of Western Pennsylvania with a reconstructed title. When a car is in an accident where the damage is considered extensive enough (or not valuable enough) the vehicle is considered to be a total loss, or “totaled”, which is generally a ticket to a scrap yard, but in some cases depending on the location of the damage or the ambition of the laborer, there is also the option for the vehicle to be reconstructed.
In the state of Pennsylvania, at least, this requires that the car be restored to a state of roadworthiness as certified by a state inspection. The car can then once again be titled, bought, sold and most importantly driven. It is just like any other car on the road, with one exception, its title will always carry with it an “R” designation, meaning that it is reconstructed – I’m fairly certain that the letter isn’t literally scarlet.
My current vehicle has been starting to show its true nature. After several years, the substandard paint job has begun to peel off in earnest, two large rust spots have appeared on the rocker panels, betraying the car’s previous life in two separate bodies, befitting a creature more appropriate for today’s other major holiday.
The church wrecked a long time ago. So long ago, in fact, that it is very difficult to pin down a date for the accident. Our bible itself shares stories and letters addressing the heresies and false gospels that were creeping in during even the earliest days of those who were first called by Christ.
Martin Luther may have grabbed a hammer and nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral nearly fifteen hundred years later, the symbolic kick-off of the Protestant Reformation, but he might as well have been using it to pound out a few dents on a car that had wrapped itself around a tree at 95 miles an hour. The church, though still a vehicle that God uses to get around, has not only long been totaled, but was never really the car that we were meant to be traveling around in to begin with.
Even with the Reformation, we have a vehicle that periodically rusts out, showing the evidence of that brutal accident, so we slap some mud on it, sand it down, repaint it and pretend that what we have is something shiny and new. We may be able to find someone to certify that it is safe, but there is no changing that this car has long been driven around by a bunch of drunk teenagers, it has long been structurally compromised and irreversibly damaged.
On the flip-side of these cars that have every last mile squeezed out of their engine and body, there are the collectors out there. The ones who can recognize a vehicle of true value and magnificent craftsmanship, and choose to lock that treasure up in a garage somewhere that it can’t be touched by the moisture that brings oxidation and corruption, the friction that wears out engines, or the many obstacles of the road.
Somewhere, locked in some long-forgotten garage, is the ecclesia of Christ. Original paint, matching serial numbers, spotless body, immaculate interior…
… low mileage.